Pleas for help are greatly promoted this time of year, all worthy of any discretionary funds at your disposal.
Each of us is more moved by a particular plea than by another. For me, it is the children who live in America but who are least likely to access and enjoy the American dream and, for me, those children can be found at The Nest and at Fostering Goodwill.
The Nest tries to shore up families in crisis while the children are young, and Fostering Goodwill tries to support children who have been reared in state care because their family crisis could not be averted.
Both of these programs need your help right now.
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The Nest — Center for Women, Children and Families was known as the Lexington Child Abuse Council and the Women's Center of Central Kentucky before those groups joined forces in 1977. It is a place where parents can bring their children for a respite, where parents can learn better nurturing techniques, where victims of sexual assault or domestic violence can find support, and where parents trying to earn a GED can find safe child care.
Sheri Estill, crisis care manager at The Nest, said her organization also offers emergency help when parents have too many days between their paychecks or monthly grants. Diapers, formula, cleaning supplies and food staples are available to bridge that gap.
Those clients, numbering nearly 500 this year, were sent invitations to the annual Reindeer Express, a time when parents can choose new unwrapped toys for their children up to 5 years old.
"We give them seven tickets," Estill said. "They use them to select toys for their children."
A bike may require all the tickets, she said, whereas a doll would require only one. Educational toys and books don't require any tickets. Families can also receive a food basket, new child's coat, hat, scarves and gloves, and maybe a child's blanket.
Unfortunately, the non-profit organization is very short on those items. Estill said the 500 family clients represent 769 children, 53 percent of whom are boys.
"Last year we didn't get enough boy toys," she said. "We'll take soccer balls, footballs, sports items, anything." The list includes games and puzzles, art supplies, cars and trucks, dinosaurs, books and pre-school toys, wrapping paper and stocking stuffers.
Donations are needed by Dec. 10 with distribution set for Dec. 14. Volunteers are needed to help pass out items.
Unfortunately, not all family crises can be fended off. Sometimes children face daily uncertainties that can necessitate state intervention. And sometimes those children remain in state care until they are 18, and are then released to their own devices.
Social workers Jeff Culver and Earl Washington decided to ease that transition through Fostering Goodwill, an organization that assists foster youth aging out of state care in meeting their basic needs, in finding employment, and in knowing their rights.
At Christmas, some youth may look around and find very few glad tidings. That's why Fostering Goodwill and the Kentucky Organization for Foster Youth host a party for current and former foster care youth.
This year the party is 5-8 p.m., on Dec. 18 at GattiTown, 2524 Nicholasville Road. Each youth is given gift cards.
Lisa Diluna, 21, said the Christmas party offers the youth a taste of family.
"If you don't have a Christmas to go to, you can go there and get the same vibe," she said. "It is definitely a family safe vibe."
Diluna had a problem with truancy and her mother, who was addicted to drugs, never pushed her to do better, she said. Her mother is in recovery now and Diluna is attending Bluegrass Community and Technical College where she is studying criminal justice.
Without Culver and the support program, Diluna said, "I don't know where I would be."
Jeff Frye, who owns GattiTown with his wife, Kim, said about 190 youth attended the party last year.
"For a lot of them, GattiTown wouldn't be the place to come on their own," he said. "Some don't have the means to do that on their own."
Culver is asking for $25 gift cards for Wal-Mart, Target or Kroger to be given to the youth. If you'd rather send a check, Fostering Goodwill can buy the cards. The deadline is Dec.17.
"We rely solely on donations from the community and our goal is to be able to reach out to 200 kids," Culver said.
The spirit of Christmas is about bringing joy to people. With our help I don't know anybody whose joy would be greater than the individuals and families in these two groups.